CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, bronze, so-called lotus root heart money


CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC, so-called lotus root heart money, Obverse: squared bell shape, slit in two walls, some lines for decoration, loop at top, bronze, 32x16x9mm, 28.9g, bit crusty, F

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The idea that enigmatic bronze objects were early forms of Chinese “money” was popularized in Europe by a monograph written by H. A. Ramsden in 1912. The alternative explanation of the so-called “lotus root heart” money is that they were keys to locks.

The Zhou Dynasty began in 1222 BC and ended in 255 BC. An early period of relative unity (Western Zhou) ended in 770 BC, when the Emperor was captured by barbarians. The nobles elected a new Emperor, but kept him and his successors as figureheads while they played their political games. 770-475 BC is known as the Spring and Autumn Period, during which lived Confucius, Sun Tsu, and other philosophers, and during which the first coins were made. 455-220 BC is called the Warring States Period, from which emerged the first centralized Chinese Empire.

The oldest Chinese coins are at least as old as the earliest Greek coins. The Chinese coinage system differed from other systems in two ways. It was monometallic, only bronze coins circulated in general commerce. Gold and silver were treated as commodities. And the manufacturing method was by casting in moulds rather than by striking heated solid planchets.